Monday, December 1, 2008

An Irish Airman Foresees His Death

I've never read much W.B. Yeats, but I came across this poem of his the other day quite by accident and really liked it. It's an Irish pilot serving in the British Royal Flying Corps in the First World War. Not an enviable situation. It's called "An Irish Airman Foresees His Death":

I know that I shall meet my fate
Somewhere among the clouds above;
Those that I fight I do not hate,
Those that I guard I do not love;
My country is Kiltartan Cross,
My countrymen Kiltartan's poor,
No likely end could bring them loss
Or leave them happier than before.
Nor law, nor duty bade me fight,
Nor public men, nor cheering crowds,
A lonely impulse of delight
Drove to this tumult in the clouds;
I balanced all, brought all to mind,
The years to come seemed waste of breath,
A waste of breath the years behind
In balance with this life, this death.

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